Getting ready to present at the World Storytelling conference in Kobe next Sunday, so I don't have much time for blogging. But I did want to get something down which jumped out at me today. I was lounging around in class during break time and one of my students pulled a pineapple candy out of his pocket. It's a round, very sour candy that's pretty popular in Japan. I said, "You know, I love that pineapple candy, but I don't really like pineapples." The student, Ken, who is a pretty shy guy and doesn't talk very much, looked at me as if I was totally crazy and said, "But why Kevin? Why?" I wasn't sure if he was teasing me, but even if he was, I was down with that.
"Well," I said, "Pineapples have a great flavor, but they are so dry. They make my mouth feel strange. That candy has all the goodness of pineapples and none of the dryness."
Ken slapped his hand against the desk and said, "I feel the same way, too."
At which point, Ru-Chan, who was sitting across from Ken, said, "I don't like blueberries. But I love blueberry yogurt."
I jumped up and said, "I feel the same way! How about bananas?"
Ru-chan kind of frowned and said, "I don't like bananas. But I like banana chips."
Ken clapped and said, "Yes! Yes!"
And I said, "What is it about banana chips? I love them, too."
Then the bell rang and we started class.
So what is this little anecdote about anyway? Not much, really. Candy, fruit, a little connection, a sense of excitement. It didn't generate a lot of language, but I think it brought Ken, Ru-chan and I a little closer together. It probably also helped to boost both Ru and Ken's confidence. But most of all, it was just fun. We were just hanging out and talking. And we all had a good time. Sometimes I'm so caught up in how to give my students more and more language, caught up in how to challenge them to use what language they have in new ways, that I lose sight of what's happening right in front of me. Which is a shame, because it's in the here and now of class that I have my best chance to connect with a student and not just teach, but allow us to learn about and from each other. Maybe if I could dial back on all the things I want to do or think I need to do in class, I would be able to take more advantage of these pineapple-candy-moments. You know, the kind with all the goodness of learning and none of the dryness of teaching.